I've found the esc_url() function and I'm trying to understand what to do with URLs in Wordpress, before resorting to my normal PHP tactics. I see that the third parameter is used to set the filter that runs on it, with the default value of 'display'. This is for display on a webpage. I grepped the WP source code for examples of the use of the third parameter and found but a single example:

$ grep -rP "esc_url.*\([^\)\,]*\,[^\)\,]*\, ?'?\"?.*\)" *
wp-includes/formatting.php: return esc_url( $url, $protocols, 'db' );

All other matches to grep were for irrelevant invocations, such as the use of another function call's return value as an esc_url() argument.

Other than 'display' and 'db', what other values should be used and when? I see quite a few places in the WP source code where the display value is used in an href, here is an example:

$ grep -r esc_url * | grep href
wp-admin/themes.php: <td><a href="<?php echo esc_url( $delete_url ); ?>" class="button button-secondary delete-theme"><?php _e( 'Delete' ); ?></a></td>

Should the 'display' value really be used for an href attribute? It seems to me that it does some encoding that I would not trust to return always to proper URL afterward, especially for non-ASCII URLs.

Is this a bug in WP that the 'dispaly' filter is being used for actual URLs, or should I use the 'display' filter for actual URLs in my own code as well?

1 Answer 1


No other value can be used in place of display and db.

WordPress just check for value display and convert & and 'quotes to HTML entities (Including all other characters). If you pass db it is just skip this block of code. However, WordPress recommends to use esc_url_raw() instead of passing third argument.

You can use esc_url_raw() when saving back-end options like theme options or plugin settings and you should always esc_url() in href attribute, browser decodes it very well.


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